Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Night Mail


The New World depends on the timely delivery mail of over large distances. Unfortunately, large swathes of the continent are mostly unsettled, only cut by lone railways, or haphazard auto trails. Bandits, hostile Native tribes, and wandering monsters still harry travellers in much the West, while malevolent storms and ravenous zombies menace the Dustlands. The skies have often become the best option.

The Union has a postal service, but it relies on private contractors to carry air mail. Many of these companies are small operations, or even sole propietorships. The pilots are typically recruited from the ranks of barnstorming daredevils or veterans of the Great War. Their planes are often rickety and aging, held together by paint and wishful thinking.

The larger, or more reckless, operations run night and day. Coast-to-coast routes can be flown by most carriers in around 30 hours, pilots staying awake with black coffee and alchemical stimulants. Larger (and much more expensive) planes can make the trip in less than twenty. The smaller planes go from the City to San Tiburon in jumps--making deliveries in the Steel League, Lake City, and some Western cow-towns along the way.

That's assuming the planes make it safely. Aviation is a dangerous business in the best of conditions, and conditions are seldom the best. Thunderbirds hunt western skies, wings crackling with St. Elmo’s fire, riding the storms their presence invokes. Air-bandits strike from mountain hideouts, or (it’s rumored) cloud-hidden flying fortresses, to down and loot commercial planes. The whispered come-ons of slyphs seduce lonely aviators to their doom. Elemental storms smash aircraft out of spite.

Then there’s the strange fauna of the upper air. Eerily translucent, gelatinous predators, like something out the ocean depths, which drift downward in response to air vibrations, and almost certainly, magical energies.

Thamaturgical enhancements can, and have, improved aircraft engines and systems, but their use is limited for safety reasons. Magic energies tend to attract dangerous para-elementals of lightning (or electricity)--entities called gremlins or glitches by those in aviation. Their very nature disrupts electrical equipment; and their chaotic anti-potential can disrupt mechanical devices, and react with thamaturgical equipment in unpredictable ways.

Their presence interacts with the human mind, too. Pilots who have suffered gremlin attacks often report hallucinating outlandish, colorful, diminutive creatures--if they survive the encounter.

13 comments:

Eli Arndt said...

Trey,


The City is such a wonderful setting. I really hope you will consider compiling your work into some sort of setting book that we mall all thumb through in our greedy little paws, printed or otherwise.

Matt said...

Awesome stuff. If you ever run an online or pbem campaign, let me know. I'd love to explore this world first hand.

Johnathan Bingham said...

Just to echo what the others have said, I'd love to have a hardcopy. Tis is some seriously cool stuff!

Trey said...

Thanks guys. The Weird Adventures setting book is coming, as fast as I can get it too you--which is not as fast as I'd like, but still hoping for a winter release. Ultimately, I guess, it'll be done when its done. :) It will reprint (in a reconfigured form) some of my blog posts, though not all, but it'll also have new material--particularly a lot on the City itself which I've seldom touched on here.

@Matt - I might do an online/PBEM game at some point. Others have expressed interest, but the print supplement is my first priority!

Daddy Grognard said...

Ah, Amy Johnson. Famous daughter of Hull, just outside which I happen to live. There's a statue to her by one of the main shopping centres. I shall think of her fending off airborne jellyfish every time I walk past it!

Trey said...

Indeed. :) I had no idea she was from Hull...but then I must admit I know very little about the famous aviatrices of Britain, other than the names of--well, two really--Johnson and Markham.

Harald said...

Who doesn't like double-deckers fighting monsters of the sky, and swordfights on top of Zeppelins?

Trey said...

No one I'd want to know. ;)

Risus Monkey said...

Zeppelins! There must be Zeppelins!

NetherWerks said...

Here's a link to Kipling's With the Night Mail, which might be of some interest and amusement to you.
Good stuff. Count me in for a copy of the Weird Adventures book.

Trey said...

Where did you think I got the title for this post? :)

Yes, "With the Night Mail" and its companion story "Easy as ABC" are interesting.

NetherWerks said...

We never assume anything, if we can help it. Synchronicity does happen. The Kipling tales seem like a perfect fit for The City. A lot of the stuff over at Macus Rowland's Forgotten Futures could be fodder for your efforts, easily. I'm still waiting to see your adaptation of Carnacki's Electric Pentacle...that'd be great fun!

Trey said...

Very true. I hadn't thought of the electric pentacle, but that's an excellent idea...